“I’m going to move into my mother’s skin!” said Grace after her mother died. “She’s my mother and I can do what I want with her memory.” Many people disagreed but didn’t say anything to Grace because they were scared of her.
“The house shouldn’t be sold,” she told her brother. “Let me keep it. I’ll let her memory and aura continue to live on in the bones of the house.”
“What gives you the right to do all of this?” he said.
Grace recounted the days she spent in hospital with her mother. “I kept a tally,” she said as she took out a notebook. “I wrote a page a day for every day I spent with her.” She took out a small leather notebook and pushed it in Lyle’s face.
“I wasted my life watching my mother, writing in this stupid book,” she said. She noted how she cleaned her mother too: the arches of her legs, the small of her back, her buttocks. It was too much. She spent hours looking at her mother and thinking that, even dying, she was twice the woman she was.
Once Grace’s mother had been burnt into a fine powder, she was poured into a tin that once contained tiny biscuits.
Grace carried the tin around with her everywhere. She taped it up tight. “We don’t want the dust getting around the house,” she told people in the village. “I’ve already found her covering shelves, books, tables, lampshades, figurines, ceremonial plates.”
Grace used to have a glass of wine every evening with the tin containing her mother. She thought about how, yes, this tin once contained biscuits, but then it contained old antique coins and then sepia family photographs.
Grace tried on her mother’s shoes. They were too big and she never realised how big her mother’s feet were.
“Bitch!” said Grace. “Am I always going to play second fiddle to you?” She opened the tin and took a handful of her mother and snorted it up her nose.
“Serves you right,” she said aloud to a lampshade.
Shirts + Wig
Grace tried to wear her mother’s old shirts but they didn’t fit either. She ran around the house in the oversized shoes, holding the tin and moved at such a speed that the shirt billowed like a flag surrendering in war.
In those final days of her mother’s life, her mother required a wig. Grace took the clippers to her hair and shaved all her hair off and put the wig on. It was a cheap, yellow wig and looked like a bunch of bananas or a pile of sisal rope.
She invited friends and family over to the house for an anniversary dinner of her mother’s death. She told Lyle over the phone.
“It’s only been 4 months,” said Lyle. “But I appreciate you getting us together for this.”
But when Lyle arrived, along with his wife, kids, cousins, their partners and a bunch of other relatives, they were worried. The house was filled with photographs of his mother and Grace was talking to all of them angrily.
“Stop looking at me! I’m not copying you.” Dinner was just different types of potatoes.
“Mom always liked them. Skin on or skin off, she liked them,” said Grace. Lyle had his head in his hands.
“Why are you dressed like Mom?”
The kids laughed and Lyle hit one of them around the head.
“I feel closer to her this way.”
“And the tin, why is the tin there?”
The tin sat atop a chair and even had a plate of food prepared for it. “You never know.”
“What? Never know what?”
“If she gets peckish.”
Lyle stood up and said that he was leaving.
“I’m sick of the way you are,” said Grace. The tin stared at Grace and eventually broke her. “Tins can’t blink, so that’s unfair advantage.”
Grace took another glass of wine and gulped in one. “You were beautiful, so what. I have my merits too.”
Grace had been dumped earlier that evening. She’d been to dinner with the man and she liked him.
But they’d been on several dates now and had had several dinners. “How many dinners does a woman need to eat for a man to fuck her?” said Grace to the tin.
She’d eaten many different types of food with the man. She’d eaten lemon sole and swordfish and moussaka and dupiaza and rump steaks and fillet steaks and lamb chops.
Eventually she got him home. “Take off your clothes,” she said. He did and his body was the body of a middle aged man. His belly had a scar across the button that made it look like he’d had something taken out of him.
He told her to get naked too and she did. They had quiet sex. Throughout she noticed he looked disappointed and afterwards, he said that he was.
“You’re all air,” he said. “Your breasts are a disappointment, I must say. I was promised fun bags.” Earlier on in their relationship she called her breasts fun bags and she regretted it instantly.
“Your mother, now there was a woman,” he said. He left. After, she stared at herself in the mirror. She counted everything that was wrong with her. Number one: small breasts. Number two: the vagina hung low and looked like chewing gum on the bottom of a shoe.
Number three: too many moles. Number four: dainty feet. Number five: her face. Number six: the tin.
That evening, an oil covered Grace opened the tin, pushed her mother to the side and put in a divider, creating space next to her.
She left the tin in the yard and a note for her brother on top of it: I would like to be the lesser neighbour. She held the match and thought that if she did have one good thing about her, it was her decisiveness.
Oliver Zarandi is the editor of Funhouse, a magazine focused on bodies and bodily functions. His recent work appears in Vol 1 Brooklyn, Hobart and The Quietus. His essay ‘Swallowing’ is forthcoming in Fanzine.